By the Way Meet Vera Stark

Vera_homea This is not the first play I have seen from the playwright Lynn Nottage and hopefully it will not be the last.  By the Way Meet Vera Stark is well written, funny, clever, layered and smart. 

The play is about racism.  We meet Vera Stark, in the 1930's, who lives in Los Angeles working as a maid of a major Hollywood starlet while trying to break into acting herself.  The roles for black women at that time were minimal and the ones available had no lines or they played the hired helped.  This takes place during the Depression. 

Eventually Vera lands a role in a major Hollywood play, a break out role for black women.  The second act shows her actual movie role on film.  Very clever how Nottage uses different mediums in this play.  We learn that Vera, after her last TV appearance on a talk show in 1973, basically vanishes.  This scene is particularly clever.  Nottage has two themes going at the same time.  Vera on stage at the talk show in 1973 and then 3 people at a talk show in the present day analyzing Vera, this show and her life. 

The acting is fantastic.  Every single actor gives an incredible performance and plays multiple characters.  The last scene gives you an insight into the insanity of talking heads attempting to analyze Vera and then the audience sees Vera for the choices she had to make based on her race.  What was available to her as a black woman in the 30's was minimal.  She took the role which ended up being a pivotal career move because she so wanted to act but the reprecussions of being a black woman at that time were huge. 

Super smart, well written and a really thought provoking play with a lot of laughter as an added bonus.  The fact that this is a comedy makes the viewer think even more.  The content isn't so funny, it is a part of our history that certainly wasn't easy for the African Americans who struggled through those times and made the most of the few opportunities they were given all because of the color of their skin.



Comments (Archived):

  1. aarondelcohen

    Joann, what hills me about this very nice post is how the playwrights and producers have no ability to leverage it for their own self-marketing and distribution purposes.I saw the Springseen Documentary The Promise on Monday night at City Winery. It was unbelievably good. Tweeted and Blogged it, but there are no mechanisms for artists to capture and redistribute these fan reviews.This is one of the problems I’m hoping to solve with a soon to be announced new company.

    1. Gotham Gal

      you are absolutely right. i have spoke to several people in the arts aroundtheater and they have not figured out the important of social media.